Three playoff teams each traded off one of their starters for other needs and will be using this extended Spring Training to audition for what will be their 5th starters. These playoff teams are both Chicago teams and the Tampa Bay Rays. Picking who will win the jobs is like gambling on horses. You know the favorites, you know who you want to win and you have a darkhorse in the back of your mind.
I figure that I will try to handicap each race...
Favorite: Aaron Heilman, major league experience(more as a reliever, but prefers not to) and is "out of options" He's known as a 2-pitch pitcher and both grade out as average pitches(though he's got a devasting slider that he rarely usesN due to lack of confidence)
Fan-Favorite:Sean Marshall, multiple pitches and doesn't walk many batters. What's not to like?
Dark-Horse(s):Jeff Samarizdja and Chad Gaudin, both had good seasons as a reliever but both could be better used as starters. Jeff needs to work on adding a pitch to be a viable starter in the majors. Gaudin just needs to stay healthy.
My Pick: Sean Marshall is believed to have the inside edge by some and showed in spot starts, for Zambrano and Harden, that he's a legit big league starter.
Chicago White Sox
Favorite: Clayton Richard, showed late in the season and playoffs that "big games" don't bother him. When you outshine Javy Vazquez, you've got something going for you in Ozzie's mind. However, he really doesn't have the stuff to be a long-term major league starter.
Fan-favorite: Aaron Poreda, top prospect and has 2 "plus" pitches and was sent to work on adding a 3rd pitch this offseason by Don Cooper.
Dark-Horse: Jeff Marquez, sleeper prospect will soon be a sleeper fantasy pick in many people's minds. Good K/BB, though really doesn't have a blazing fastball. Think Kevin Slowey/Andy Sonnanstine.
My Pick: Jeff Marquez. While Poreda is flashy with the mid-90s heater and nice looping curve, I think he needs to hone a 3rd pitch before you throw him into the fire. Pitchers don't wanna be in Ozzie's doghouse. Jeff Marquez's "finesse" outshines all other candidates. Pitchers that can disregard his lack of velocity by keeping walks to a minimum and getting outs will have success earlier on than "project"-types(like Poreda).
Tampa Bay Rays
Favorite(s): Jeff Niemann and Jason Hammel are both "out of options", meaning they have to make the roster or they have to be placed on waivers. Jeff Niemann has the "stuff"(his debut), but has a lengthy injury-plagued past and thoughts around the organization have him possibly being used as a reliever where he may be more likely dominant. Jason Hammel has good "stuff", but his AAA dominance hasn't converted over to the majors. He once combined with former Ray Juan Salas for a no-hitter.
Fan-Favorite: David Price, top prospect and future "ace" written all over him. Plus-plus fastball and slider and very clean mechanics. Organization wants his change-up to improve a little(which many believe may become a "plus"-level pitch too) to be a full-fledged major league starter. Has a little over 100 innings of professional experience and a short 2-3 week stay in AAA could give the Rays an extra year of him.
Dark-Horse(s): Carlos Hernandez, Mitch Talbot and Wade Davis. Carlos has a blazing fastball and past major league experience in the Astros organization(where injuries were the only thing preventing him from being a good major league starter) before a torn labrum put a halt on his career. Not likely to do much, but he could surprise. According to Rays Pitching Coach, Jim Hickey, Talbot's "stuff" probably grades out higher than James Shields'. However, James' intangibles and Mitch's composure problems have set him back. Wade Davis will be a Rays starter sooner or later, just a matter of time and a trade must be made to open up a spot in the Rays rotation. Davis' timetable is where the Rays want it and has a major league fastball right now(as shown from him K'ing half a billion dollars of Yankee property today) but they want him to keep on developing his curveball, change-up and newly added slider in Durham. Why rush WD40(no joke, that's his initials and his number)?
My Pick:David Price is who I want to see, but they proved that they're smarter than me with Longoria last year. After Game 7 of the ALCS, he is a Red Sox killer and needs to be on the team. Convert Niemann to relief, trade/waive Hammel(not like anyone will miss him and rather see him than Price) and let Carlos, Mitch and Wade pitch in Durham.